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Notes and observation: Coordinator Thursday

Posted Oct 5, 2017

Senior writer John Oehser’s notes and observations from Thursday, when the Jaguars’ offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators spoke in advance of Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

JACKSONVILLE – Todd Wash left no doubt on Thursday about the Jaguars’ run defense.

It must be a lot better than it was last week – and Wash said there are no great complexities, nuances or subtleties about the issue.

“It’s an easy fix; it’s an easy fix,” Wash said as the Jaguars (2-2) prepared to play the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Sunday at 1 p.m.

Wash, the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator, in no way was saying this week’s opponent is easy. But while he called the Steelers “a big-time challenge,” he said identifying the issues that caused the Jaguars to allow 256 rushing yards to the New York Jets this past Sunday wasn’t nearly as difficult.

The Jaguars – who rank No. 1 in the NFL in pass defense and 32nd against the run – play a gap-control-based defense that depends on defensive players playing a disciplined style and defending assigned gaps.

“We’re an eight-man front, so obviously everybody’s responsible for one gap,” Wash said. “At times, if you get out of get out of your gap, you’re one-on-one with a safety. That’s probably the toughest play in the NFL to make – a middle-of-the-field tackle on some of these backs.

“We’ve got to do a good job of playing our gaps and responsibility. We have to find a way to get them down; that’s the bottom line.”

The Jaguars failed to do that on several occasions against the Jets, specifically on three plays that accounted for 177 of the Jets’ rushing yards.

“We’ve had a big discussion on it,” Wash said. “It was three plays. We just have to find a way to make sure we play consistently. It was two-hundred-some yards rushing and 177 on three plays. We have to find a way to knock those three plays out.”

All three Jaguars coordinators – Hackett on offense, Todd Wash on defense and Joe DeCamillis on special teams – spoke to the media Thursday. Notes and observations from Coordinator Thursday:

*Hackett said the while the Jaguars must prevent defenses from stacking the box against rookie running back Leonard Fournette, that doesn’t have to mean hitting deep pass downfield. Fournette has shown the ability to squeeze extra yards from every carry, but he largely has faced defenses with safeties playing close to the line of scrimmage. “I think you just have to be able to throw the ball – as long as they’re afraid of something down the field,” Hackett said. “We called shots down the field. As long as you show it, that’s OK. But you still have to get some completions. If you throw the ball down to [running backs] Leonard [Fournette], or Chris [Ivory] or Corey [Grant], that’s not a bad thing. But you have to continually go after those shots down the field. We did last week and some of them weren’t there.” …

*Hackett said while Fournette’s ability as a receiver has surprised some who questioned his hands leading to the draft, it didn’t surprise Jaguars coaches. “I’m not going to say it was a concern, because we knew he could catch the ball,” Hackett said. “We knew he was good in space and has a burst of speed. He’s gotten in some great spots and he’s really been able to showcase it. That’s been really good.” Fournette, who has 285 yards and three touchdowns rushing on 81 carries, has 12 receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown receiving in four games. ...

*Making the Jaguars’ task tough defensively Sunday: Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson this week called Bell one of the NFL’s best backs against a gap defense because of his vision and patience. Wash concurred Thursday, saying: “There’s a certain style you have to play against him because he’s so dynamic. … He stops, waits for you to jump out of your to try to tackle him in somebody else’s gap and off he goes. There are a lot of plays we’ve shown [the players] of him doing that. He’s very dynamic. What an unbelievable running back.” …

*Wide receiver Marqise Lee missed practice for a second consecutive day with a rib injury sustained against the Jets last Sunday. Center Brandon Linder (illness) and safety Jarrod Wilson (shoulder) worked on a limited basis after missing practice Wednesday and linebacker Lerentee McCrary (knee) missed practice after practicing limited Wednesday. Fournette (ankle) and fullback Tommy Bohanon (knee) both worked full after being limited Wednesday. Working on a limited basis for a second consecutive day were wide receiver Jaelen Strong (hamstring), cornerback Jalen Ramsey (ankle), right guard A.J. Cann (hand) and defensive tackle Malik Jackson (groin). Quarterback Blake Bortles (right wrist) and linebacker Donald Payne (hamstring) were listed on the injury report as working full for the second consecutive day. …

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